Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#64 - A FORTUNATE Time

So you may ask, how is this a fortunate time? Things are becoming worse than ever in this world. The United States economy is getting worse and worse, earthquakes and hurricanes have made a sharp rise in the last several years, and who knows what will be next with terrorism, including the nuclear threat from Iran. Things have certainly not become better in the Mideast, when even the various Arab factions can't seem to quite agree, if not fight, one another.

Well, it depends how you look at it. For those who include G-d in their lives - and I don't mean just saying that you believe in Him - but make a concerted effort to show this to be the case, with one's full faith and trust in Him without being swayed by materialistic desires or gains to be "ahead of the game" while pushing others down; certainly, G-d will have a special treat for these good people at the end of time. These people know that what is happening in this world these days is a test of what will separate the men from the boys. These people indeed know that it is G-d Who is running the show, even when it seems that good people are being affected. After all, believers know that there is Heaven at the end of one's life of good accomplishments; though G-d does spare many others because they have something to accomplish; and even evil people whom G-d knows will not repent may live
to serve as a punishing rod for others.

We know based on our Jewish history, and on what the rabbis have told us from the Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar, including today's Kabbalists, that it is just a matter of time now before the show in the exile is over. But what is more practical than knowing what is going or supposed to happen is that now is the time to make a serious effort to better our ways before the Messiah comes; because once the Messiah comes, the games are over and repentance that will help us gain our entry in the door will be a thing of the past.

In Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, we are told "One moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is worth more than all the life in the World to Come"; meaning, our opportunity is in this world only to make the best of our time for our spiritual benefit which is eternal, and once one passes away, there is nothing more he or she who passed away can do to make up for lost time or better one's ways, and enjoying the tube in the comfort of one's high rise condominium in South Florida will not help a senior citizen reach that eternal goal, even though he or she is not "hurting anyone", except maybe himself or herself if not focused on what is supposed to be the ultimate focus in one's life.

The bottom line here is that the window of opportunity to gain for the long term, which in our case, the chance in this world to acquire eternal spiritual points for how much real pleasure - which far exceeds the greatest pleasure of this material world - we will experience forever, is the fortunate time for us to be given a chance to do it right, unlike an animal who perishes forever once its life is over, because we humans have souls, which is who we really are, as our bodies are just vessels for our souls.

Similarly, this period of time right before the Messiah's coming is a most fortunate time, because NOW is the time to do it right, especially now that we know that we have only so much time left, and so it's not like we continue living our lives without putting thought into what will happen next. Despite the various tragedies, upheavals and economic setbacks which is affecting virtually everyone in one way or another without getting into details in this post, we must remember that it is the spiritual opportunity that we have now to be the very ones who will finalize the preparations for the big moment when the Messiah comes, something that previous generations did not have the opportunity as they already passed away, and it is we - this generation - who has that chance to do this.

With this understanding, I would like to note that this Rosh Chodesh Nissan which just passed, was the 511th day from when I began You see, the word Ashrei - which means fortunate - is the Gematria of 511, and is the beginning word of the Likutei Moharan, the magnum opus of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, whose birthay was Rosh Chodesh Nissan some 238 years ago. Moreover, the same letters as the word Ashrei form to make the word Reisha, which is Aramaic for the word FIRST. And indeed, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the FIRST day of the count of months from Nissan.

Anyways, the beginning word of this holy book begins a Pasuk/verse that is quoted from the beginning of Chapter 119 of Psalms, the longest chapter in the Tanach/Bible. This chapter is most unique because there are eight verses beginning with each of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit - 8 verses beginning with Alef, 8 verses beginning with Beit, etc. In fact, this chapter is given a special name in Aramaic called Temania Apin - "Eight Faces", just as our Rabbis tell us that there are 70 faces to the Torah, meaning 70 different ways of explaining it.

So, who is fortunate? "Fortunate are the ones whose way is wholesome, who walk with the Torah of Hashem". Now, there are other translations given for the word Ashrei - happy, praiseworthy. These are also good translations of this word, but I have in mind the root word for Ashrei - Osher/fortune, as spelled in Hebrew - Alef, Shin, Reish, which is similar to the word Osher that begins with an Ayin instead of an Alef which means wealth. It makes sense, wealth and fortune. While following in Hashem's ways isn't just a matter of fortune, as it is something we are supposed to be doing as opposed to something that we win as a lottery, we are most fortunate to be given an opportunity - especially as the Jewish people - to have a chance to serve G-d. As some Chasidic masters exclaimed, the only reward they wanted for doing a Mitzva was doing another Mitzva, for they truly felt that doing what Hashem wanted was their only desire. While we may not be on a spiritual level anywhere near these great sainted people, at the very least, we should have an awareness of what truly counts.

The next word in the verse is Temimei - based on the word Tamim, which can be translated as blameless or perfect. I chose the word wholesome, that is, the ways of the ones who are truly serving Hashem are wholesome. It is more of a positive spin than using the word blameless; and for the word perfect, only Hashem can be described as perfect.

And now for the last part of the verse - the Torah OF HASHEM. It is not as conceived by many in the Torah world who perform actions in "the name of Torah", when they make compromises with a government over Israel, who as a whole (except for certain individuals) not only do not make any sincere effort to follow in the ways of Torah, but work against it, and pays money to those who pretend are following in the ways of Torah to keep their mouths shut, so that thousands of other Jews who are truly following in the ways of Torah can be kicked out of their homes, most of whom still do not have permanent housing after almost five years. Yes, while some 9,000 Jews were suffering with poverty, instability, marital problems, divorces, and numerous other dilemmas as a result of being thrown out of their Gush Katif homes, there were those who are looked up in the Torah world while looking down on these Gush Katif "Zionists", who pocketed hundreds of millions of Shekalim (Israeli currency) for their Yeshivot and other Torah institutions, stamping their silence as "kosher".

Some of these rabbis who took the hush money may be teaching physical words of Torah, but they are not teaching the "Torah of Hashem" because their way is not wholesome. Money, greed, power, and politics got in their way, and they forgot along the way what the rabbis state in the Talmud that a Mitzva/commandment that is performed via the means of an Aveira/sin is an Aveira. Period! It's not enough that many of them have the attitude that one should not be in the Israeli army but only learn Torah; but that they took money for themselves to ignore other Jews - many if not most who served in the Israeli army at one time or another to defend the entire nation which includes these Torah institutions.

Speaking of the number eight, there is a connection between the number eight and Rosh Chodesh Nissan. In fact, Parshat Shemini, which we will be reading on the Shabbat after Passover is named as such because it was on the EIGHTH day from the Kehuna/Priesthood training for Aaron and his sons, that the Mishkan/Tabernacle was dedicated. This day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the official start of these Cohanim serving in the Sanctuary of Hashem. As the Maharal of Prague states, the number eight represents what is beyond nature - the aspect of what we call miracles, even though nature is a constant miracle from Hashem which exists every moment only because of Hashem's will. And indeed, the very name of this month Nissan is based on the word Nes/miracle or Nissim/miracles. Hence, it was in the very beginning of this month that the Cohanim, led by the Cohen Gadol/High Priest with his eight priestly garments, began their service in the holiest place in the world (eventually, it would be the Temple in Jerusalem), where miracles were bound to happen.

Along these lines, as this is my 64th post, it's noteworthy to mention that the square root of 64 is eight. Actually, there is a very famous game that represents this concept - chess (and checkers, but chess is a far greater intellectual game). In case anyone wondered where the word chess came from, no doubt that it is based on the name of the letter Cheit, which is the Gematria of eight, as a chess board consists of 8*8 squares.

Perhaps what is most fascinating about this game is that virtually no two games are alike, which is similar to the Torah - Hashem's wisdom - which is never ending. The goal of this game is to capture the king in which the king is not able to escape without being taken off the board, signaling the end of the game. Perhaps what we can learn from this game is that we need to behave in such a fashion that we will "capture" the heart, so to speak, of the King of Kings, which is fulfilling our mission in life for which we were sent to this world for. That is, there are two hearts - the Jewish people's and Hashem's.

This is most eloquently described in Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs - the ultimate lovesong between us & Hashem, consisting of eight chapters. And as Lev/heart is the Gematria of 32, two hearts means that 32 times two is 64, the square root of eight! Hence, it is through miracles which is represented by the number eight that Hashem shows His love and affection for us. Similarly, the holiday that represents this in contrast to the other nations is called Shemini Atzeret - the vacation of the EIGHTH (day) from Succot - as we offer 70 sacrifices in the Temple corresponding to the 70 nations on the (first) seven days of Succot, and then on Shemini Atzeret as a separate holiday, though immediately following Succot, Hashem wants a special day just with us so to speak. In turn, we reciprocate this by our joyous celebration and conclusion of the Torah.

As we know, Shir HaShirim was composed by King Solomon. And as we are talking about chess, perhaps it would be nice to mention a fable mentioning King Solomon playing chess, though I don't know that it actually happened. Well, the story goes that King Solomon used to play chess, and being that he was the wisest person in the world, no one could him beat him in a game. One time, he was playing with his main general Benayahu Ben Yehoyada. At one point in the game, King Solomon excused himself for a bit of time, during which time Benayahu cheated by making a move. When King Solomon returned, they continued playing as though nothing happened during the king's break. As it turned out, Benayahu won the game; and at a later point, he confessed that he cheated in the game.

Get the point? Some people think that by doing a little cheating in life, often times with money but with other ways as well, they in effect think that they are smarter than Hashem. After all, they did what is called a Mitzva, supporting Torah institutions, supporting their family that they obligated themselves in the Ketuba/marriage contract to support, they told a lie that ruined someone else's job but allowed their own to stay on. Whatever the justification, one thing is for sure.
They do not have faith and trust in Hashem that He can take care of them just the same without their cheating and lying. Perhaps it may take a little longer for Hashem to take care of them just the same, or if it's not meant for them to have that "extra" gain, then they will loose it some other way - sometimes in very painful ways, such as with doctors, major damage to the home, etc. And if they think that they really gained without any noticable downfall, they should realize that perhaps they ultimately cheated themselves from some brownie points of their eternal reward, if they even have any left after not quite following in Hashem's ways.

Now speaking of wealth coming from Hashem as earned the right way, at the end of the 3rd Aliyah of Parshat Vayetze, Leah names Zilpa's son Asher with this name "In my good fortune, for women have considered me fortunate." As connected with the number eight, Asher was the eighth son mentioned of Jacob's 12 sons. And is physical fortune came from oil; hence, in Jacob's blessing of Asher, Jacob states MeAsher Shemaina Lachmo - "From Asher, his bread will have richness". The word for richness here is Shemaina, related to the word Shemen/oil. But also, this word Shemaina has the same letters as the word for eight - Shemona.

In Moses' blessing for Asher, the last one of the Tribes that Moses blessed, there is a question as to where the blessing for Asher ends. The verse in question begins with "Iron and copper is your seal..." The Hebrew word for iron is Barzel. It's brought in Kabbala that this word make up the first letters of the names of the four wives of Jacob - Bilha, Rachel, Zilpa, Leah, as the Jewish nation descending from these four mothers had to go through the IRON crucible as the slavery in Egypt in order to be purified. As I mentioned that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the birthday of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, it is the beginning of the 239th year from his birth, and Barzel/iron is the Gematria of 239.

As a side note, it's interesting to note that in Rabbi Nachman's book Likutei Moharan, he mentions his birthday of Rosh Chodesh Nissan as the date of the dedication of the Tabernacle at the end of the 70th Torah of the first part of his book, prefaced with the first verse of Parshat Shemini referring to this date as the "eight day". Having mentioned now about the number 70 and mentioning earlier about the 70 nations and the 70 faces of the Torah, I should mention that the number of this Hebrew year ends with the number 70. We sure hope that the joyous redemption with its miracles (and miracles are especially related to the number eight) for the Jewish people will take place in this year of 5770.

One of Rabbi Nachman's key points in his Chasidic teachings is one's strong faith and trust in Hashem. Indeed, whatever questions that one has about spirituality can be found in his teachings. There are several books of Breslov Chasidut that have topics arranged according to the letters of the Alef Beit, including the very first book that he authored called Sefer HaMiddot - Book of Characteristic Traits. In the last many years, many Jews have been brought back to the fold of Judaism thanks to this movement. Many of these followers of Breslov Chasidut, known as Breslover Chasidism, can be found especially in Israel with vans displaying Rabbi Nachman's name as Na Nach Nachman Nachman Meuman, based on a note written by Rabbi Nachman that a Breslov Rabbi named Rabbi Israel Odesser discovered and given an approbation by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

By following the teachings of the righteous, following in FULL faith and trust in Hashem, without cheating others pocketing materialistic gain that hurts others, we can hope to be saved both from the IRON crucible and the IRAN(ian) crucible, which is part of the birthpangs of the Messiah and the end of the war of Gog U'Magog (which is the Gematria of 70). While the Israeli government fears what the world would say if it would attack Iran MORE than the attack from Iran itself, Jews who fear Hashem versus the world can hope for Hashem's salvation and miracles which will be performed specifically for them, as they know that what is going on in the world now is nothing short of a test and the final pains before the birth of the revelation of Mashiach which will be the ultimate fortunate time - for those who consider this time now to be a fortunate time to be utilized in spreading the glory of the King of kings.

NOTE: G-d willing, I will be writing a post as related to Passover next week which will be followed by another following the Passover holiday.

2 & 3 Nissan 5770

P.S. Noting the time of this post 8:06 AM, the number 806 is the Gematria of the word Mishnayot, and the first word of the Mishnayot is Mei'ei'matai which is the same Gematria as Asher - 501, who is discussed in this post.

1 comment:

Asher said...

I agree with your perspective on current events. Even though there's still evil in the world today, we are very fortunate to be living during these amazing times. And thanks for the discussion about the tribe of Asher...those of us with that name are also very "fortunate" :)